One of the courses offered this summer in the program I was teaching with and coordinating for was the chemistry and culture of wine. Yep, you read that right, a wine course. Where was that when I was an undergrad? And thanks to this course, I got to arrange several amazing winery visits throughout Tuscany over the course of the month-long program (you can read about San Vito here and Montepulciano here), but my favorite was our afternoon trip to Vignamaggio.
Vignamaggio is a 600-hundred-year-old estate that sits half way between Florence and Siena. Beyond being a very old and very gorgeous estate that produces delicious Chianti wine, it also boasts a very famous resident - the Mona Lisa!
The villa was built by the Gheradini family in the fourteenth century. And while we don't know for certain who is the face behind the world's most famous portrait, most scholars believe that it is an Italian noblewoman named Mona Lisa Gheradini (this is who Vasari said was the subject of the portrait in the 16th century). Legend has it that Mona spent a lot of time at her family's country estate and some have argued (mostly our guide at the winery) that this was the site where she and her husband met with Leonardo to commission the portrait. I will say that the landscape surrounding the villa does look like something straight out of a da Vinci painting.
Legends aside, there is no questioning the immense history and beauty of the estate (their website has an amazing historical timeline here). Today, the original villa is surrounded by renaissance gardens and acres of vineyards as far as the eye can see. And after 600 years, the estate still produces delicious wine. We sampled their Chianti Classico, the Chianti Reserva, and the Vinsanto. Of course, the Reserva was my favorite and I may have returned to Florence with several bottles of their Rosé.
Oh and did I mention you can also stay in this incredible 600-year-old villa? Sign me up!
Now let's talk about this dress and how obsessed I am with it on this trip. I basically wear it once a week. It meets all of my travel-dress requirements -- comfortable yet flattering, easy to wear, lightweight, and has sleeves (sleeves are great in transitional weather and for church-going). Sadly, it is sold out, but I have rounded up some more great travel dresses for summer below. Oh, and don't forget a great hat. It is a life-saver!